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November 11, 2021 10:53 am

Palestinian Authority, Hamas Pressured Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik Residents to Reject Israeli Supreme Court Compromise

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld


Israeli security forces work at the scene of what police said was a suspected car-ramming attack, at the entrance to Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of eastern Jerusalem May 16, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

On Monday evening, the Jerusalem-based Arabic-language site Al-Qastal reported that seven of the families living in contested homes in Sheikh Jarrah accepted an agreement proposed by Israel’s Supreme Court. Another four families reportedly rejected the offer, which would have granted the residents protected tenant status while only requiring them to pay a monthly rent of about $32 for up to 15 years to the Nahalat Shimon organization.

Lower courts previously ruled that the organization is the rightful owner of the properties.

Although the proposed Supreme Court deal would have tacitly recognized Nahalat Shimon’s property rights, the Palestinian families would nevertheless have retained the option to request that the case be reopened by the Justice Ministry.

By Tuesday, though, it was reported that senior officials from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) government and its ruling Fatah faction paid a visit to Sheikh Jarrah, with a view toward persuading the majority of residents to join the rejectionist minority.

The move likely violates agreements between Ramallah and Jerusalem, which Israeli officials have argued prevent the PA from engaging in political activities throughout the holy city. The same arrangement, Israel says, specifically prohibits PA security forces from “engaging in threats [and] intimidation” of Jerusalemites.

Moreover, domestic laws passed by the Israeli parliament require the PA to obtain permission to conduct activities of a “political or governmental nature” in sovereign Israel.

Barely an hour after the Palestinian officials arrived this week, the families issued a joint statement saying that they “stand firm” in their opposition to what they called the Supreme Court’s “oppressive agreement.”

The communiqué, shared on Twitter by Mohammed El-Kurd, described efforts to restore the property rights of the actual owners as a “crime” and declared that the compromise, if accepted, would amount to “ethnic cleansing perpetrated by a settler-colonial judiciary and its settlers.”

As confirmed by Al-Qastal, the seven families who initially agreed to formalize the legal agreement backtracked in the face of “popular and factional pressure.” While the families in question subsequently denied that they were coerced, there is ample evidence to the contrary.

In May, while Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups were firing over 4,000 rockets toward Israeli civilian centers, HonestReporting noted reports about threats being made by the PA (see here and here).

“Until 1991, we were granted protected tenant status,” one Sheikh Jarrah resident reportedly said just prior to the May conflict. “However, lawyers appointed with the intervention of the Orient House [Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters] and the Palestinian Authority pressured us not to pay rent because we would have recognized Jewish ownership. Since then, anyone who raised the need to return to the protected tenant option has been threatened by PA representatives.”

Furthermore, Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh last week instructed the occupants during a phone call to refuse all offers by Israel’s highest court “as it [Israel] is an illegal entity on our land.” The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces — a coalition that includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — in a letter to the families’ lawyers, likewise demanded that the Supreme Court’s proposal be rejected.

Ironically, the families’ contacts with internationally-designated terror groups could have violated the Entry Into Israel Law and the Counter-Terrorism Law.

Lost in Reporting: Jews Were There First

The situation in Sheikh Jarrah/Shimon HaTzadik is very complex, as demonstrated by the fact that the case has been working its way through Israel’s independent court system for decades. In fact, as far back as the 1980s, several Palestinian tenants in question acknowledged under oath that Jews indeed owned their properties.

Accordingly, both the Jerusalem District Court and a subsequent appeals court ruled that Nahalat Shimon, an Israeli non-profit organization, is the rightful owner of the homes. That the tenants have still refused to pay rent — amid a pressure campaign by the PA and Palestinian terror groups — has created a situation in which they could potentially be evicted.

As HonestReporting CEO Daniel Pomerantz previously wrote:

The Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, dwelling there for generations themselves, always acknowledged that Jews came first, and the sides worked to find coexistence and compromise, despite shared loss and pain. This is not an insignificant detail. Yet it has gotten lost in most of the reportage of the recent deadly conflict.

However, just when a peaceful compromise seemed possible — one that would allow the original Jewish residents to be restored their ownership while also allowing the current Palestinian residents to remain — the Palestinian Authority government threatened the Palestinian families should they agree to a deal with Israel, which led to drawn out [but not yet complete] eviction proceedings.

Yet major media outlets have turned reality on its head by framing a real estate dispute as an attempt by Israel to “push Palestinian residents out of Jerusalem” (Associated Press) and “erase their presence in the holy city” (Reuters).

Welcome to dystopia.

Strikingly, neither of these widely-read international press agencies dedicated a single paragraph to the core issue: namely, that scare tactics have forced Palestinians to reject a compromise that would allow them for half a generation — over and above the last five decades — to continue living for next-to-nothing in homes they do not own.

Akiva Van Koningsveld is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared

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